Accessibility in Ontario: what you need to know
Ontario has laws and standards that are intended to make the province more inclusive by helping to reduce and remove the barriers you may face in everyday life. Learn about accessibility requirements, review accessibility standards and find resources.
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The deadline to file an accessibility compliance report is December 31, 2023, for:
- businesses and non-profits with 20 or more employees
- designated public sector organizations
Filing your report is a legal obligation under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).
Ontario’s accessibility standards help businesses and organizations to identify and remove barriers to improve accessibility in five areas:
- customer service
- access to information
- public transportation
- outdoor public spaces
These standards are part of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).
As a person with a disability, organizations must provide you with the right customer service so you can access their goods, services or facilities. Staff must be trained in providing accessible customer service.
You can have your support person with you at all times. You can also give feedback through accessible surveys or comment forms.
Under the AODA, organizations with one or more employees must have a process to receive feedback. That way, people can give feedback on how the organization provides goods, services or facilities to customers with disabilities.
Organizations must also let people know how they will respond to feedback and take action on complaints. Information about the feedback process must be readily available to the public.
Provide your feedback
If you feel you haven’t received accessible customer service:
- contact the organization and ask for the person in charge
- tell them you would like to comment on your accessibility experience using their feedback process
- explain the purpose of your feedback is to prevent the same problem from happening again
- if necessary, provide your feedback in writing and explain:
- the problem
- how it affected you
- your rights under the law
- how to contact you should they have any questions
Access to information
You have the right to get information from an organization in a format you can use. The formats include:
- HTML and Microsoft Word
- large print
A range of information must be provided to you in an accessible format, including:
- public notices
- for example, when an elevator, accessible washroom or ramp are out of service
- emergency information
- for example, evacuation plans
- event information, when you request it in advance
When you travel on public transit:
- announcements should be made for every destination point or stop
- specialized transit services should be available during the same hours and on the same days as other public transit
- your guide dog/service animal must be allowed to ride with you
Taking a taxi
When you travel by taxi:
- you must be charged the same rate as someone without a disability
- your guide dog/service animal must be allowed to ride in the taxi with you
- vehicle registration and driver-identification must appear in an accessible format
Employers must provide you with accessible job and accommodation information.
When you apply for a job in Ontario, you can request:
- application forms in the format of your choice
- accommodations for your interview and any tests that you may have to be complete as part of the application
Once you’re hired, the organization must provide you with emergency information in a format you can use.
Receiving accommodations in your workplace
The Employment Standards require businesses and organizations to be accessible across all stages of employment.
Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, employers have a legal duty to accommodate the individual needs of employees with disabilities.
Accommodating employees with disabilities in your workplace
Businesses and organizations are required to accommodate employees with disabilities throughout their employment.
Accommodating the individual needs of people with disabilities is a legal duty under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the AODA. This enables people to benefit equally and take part fully in the workplace and all parts of life.
Ontario’s Design of Public Spaces Standards establish a baseline level of accessibility for:
- service counters
- waiting areas with fixed seating
- outdoor spaces, such as sidewalks and parking lots
- power door operators
Accessibility requirements under the Ontario Building Code only apply to new construction. They also apply if an existing building has plans for extensive renovations.
Principal authorities, including municipalities, are responsible for enforcing the Ontario Building Code. This includes reviewing building plans, issuing permits and conducting construction inspections.
To find out about accessibility requirements for buildings in your area, please contact your local municipality’s building department.
Funding for accessibility in your home
While the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility does not provide funding to help with accessibility renovations for your home, other programs can help.
Available financial support
Whether you rent or own your home, you can apply to programs to help with the cost of your accessibility renovations.
- The Home and Vehicle Modification Program provides funding to eligible people with mobility disabilities to continue living safely in their homes, avoid job loss and participate in their communities. To be eligible, individuals are assessed based on financial need and an income requirement. Visit the March of Dimes Canada website to learn more.
- Investment in Affordable Housing funding is offered through a group of programs designed to support safe independent living, renovate and repair housing, improve housing affordability or increase the supply of affordable housing. Contact your local municipality or service manager for more information.
- Tax credits for people with disabilities may help eligible applicants offset the additional costs of living with a disability, such as accessibility renovations, transportation costs and medical equipment. Visit the Canada Revenue Agency website to learn about tax credits.
Outdoor public spaces
The Design of Public Spaces Standards set requirements to make most external public spaces accessible. The standards also address requirements to make certain internal public spaces accessible.
Like the Ontario Building Code, the standards only apply to new construction and planned redevelopment of existing public spaces.
Municipalities and businesses must consult with the public when building or rebuilding outdoor public spaces, such as:
- recreational trails
- beach access routes
- new or redeveloped outdoor public eating areas
- playgrounds and outdoor play spaces
- service counters
- waiting areas with fixed seating
- parking lots
Contact your local municipality or business association to learn more about taking part in consultations.
Guide dogs and service animals
If you have a guide dog or other service animal, they must be allowed to stay with you when you receive services in:
- grocery stores
If your guide dog/service animal does not wear a vest or harness, you can show documentation from one of these regulated health professionals:
- audiologist or speech-language pathologist
- occupational therapist
- physician or surgeon
- psychotherapist or mental health therapist
In some cases, the law does not allow service animals.
Definition of a service animal
According to the AODA’s Customer Service Standards, one of two conditions must apply for your animal to be considered a service animal:
- the animal is easily identifiable as relating to your disability (for example, it is a guide dog or other animal wearing a vest or harness)
- you can provide documentation from a regulated health professional confirming the animal is required due to a disability
Service animals are not pets. Additional fees or requirements that apply to pets do not apply to service animals.
Documentation and certification
Under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the AODA, service animals do not need to have certificates or identity cards.
However, you may be asked to provide acceptable documentation. This includes:
- documentation from a regulated health professional
- an identification card from the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General for people who are blind and use a guide dog
Accessibility improves business
Identifying, preventing and removing barriers for people with disabilities creates an Ontario that is built for everyone - whether you’re pushing a stroller, making a delivery, or using a walker or a wheelchair.
People with disabilities will choose a business where they feel welcomed, and where they can easily get the products and services they want.
People with disabilities and older adults are a large and growing group of consumers.
There are 2.6 million people in Ontario with a disability; more than 40% of this population is over the age of 65. As the population ages, this number will grow.
Businesses can attract more customers and employees by removing as many barriers to access as possible, making Ontario open for business and open for jobs for everyone.
Understand your rights
The AODA sets standards to identify, remove and prevent barriers to accessibility. However, it is not designed to address complaints if you feel that you have been discriminated against because you have a disability.
The Ontario Human Rights Code addresses discrimination. It applies to both organizations and individuals in the public and private sectors.
If you feel you have been personally discriminated against based on a disability and would like to take action against a specific person or organization, you may contact the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. They handle discrimination claims filed under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
If you decide to file a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal, you may wish to:
- first consult with the Human Rights Legal Support Centre to get information about filing your claim and to access legal support
- contact the ARCH Disability Law Centre, a specialty legal aid clinic that provides legal services to people with disabilities
- read the outcomes of past human rights cases
If you wish to file a complaint against a specific business about accessibility or the way they provide services to people with disabilities, contact the business directly.
To do so, use the business’s feedback process required under the AODA’s Customer Service Standard.
If you prefer to provide feedback or report a suspected AODA violation in writing, you can send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about your rights and responsibilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the AODA.
Accessibility services in your community
211 Ontario is a free helpline and website that connects you to community, social, health-related and government services in your area 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in over 150 languages.
211 provides contact information for over 60,000 community and government programs and services. They can help you understand what accessibility services and government benefits exist and explain how to apply.
Find programs and services in your area by entering a topic or organization name and a desired location.
Funding for accessibility improvements
The Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility does not provide funding for businesses or communities to comply with the AODA. However, other programs may apply.
You can apply for funding programs and use business tax credits to help finance a project to improve accessibility in your business or community.
- The Ontario Trillium Foundation provides grants to community and non-profit organizations to make accessibility improvements. Apply for a grant to register your organization and see deadlines and policies.
- The Enabling Accessibility Fund is a federal funding program for projects aimed at improving accessibility in communities or workplaces.
- The Income Tax Act includes a federal tax credit for businesses or commercial building owners. The credit allows them to undertake building renovations so that people with mobility disabilities can access their building. For tax credit information, contact Canada Revenue Agency at
In your community
Volunteers are welcomed and valued in every Ontario community. You can find a volunteer opportunity near you by:
- contacting a volunteer centre affiliated with the Ontario Volunteer Centre Network
- contacting a not-for-profit or charitable organization in your community
With your municipality
Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committees are required for all municipalities with a population of over 10,000.
Made up of volunteers with disabilities, they advise municipal councils about the requirements of Ontario’s accessibility laws. They also advise on a wide range of municipal processes to help make public services or facilities accessible to everyone.